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Does poll comparing Congress to STDs go too far?

January 8, 2013 by NCC Staff


A left-leaning pollster is making headlines by comparing Congress to sexually transmitted diseases, root canals, and Brussels sprouts in its latest survey.

The firm Public Policy Polling also made headlines in the 2012 election when it came in as the eighth-most accurate pollster, among 28 polling firms, when the presidential election was settled between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

But in its recent poll about the popularity of Congress, PPP tries to either make fun of, or chide, the 112th Congress by comparing it with experiences or things that people may find unpleasant.

In fact, the PPP lumped together 26 experiences, ranging from sexually transmitted diseases to traffic jams, and asked more than 800 people to say if they preferred them over their current experience with Congress. (The poll was taken just as the new 113th Congress took office, so it reflects the prior one.)

“We all know Congress is unpopular,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “But the fact that voters like it even less than cockroaches, lice, and Genghis Khan really shows how far its esteem has fallen with the American public over the last few weeks.”

The PPP puts the approval rate of Congress at 9 percent, based on that polling between January 3 and January 6. That is in line with some other recent polls. The annual Associated Press–National Constitution Center poll has Congress at 11 percent.

But other pollsters ask follow-up questions that deal with citizens' concerns with tax hikes, spending cuts and the economy.

The PPP poll asked if people are more worried about Congress than getting a root canal, undergoing a colonoscopy, having the Ebola virus or experiencing gonorrhea—which aren’t laughing matters to some people.

Other poll questions lump in much-maligned celebrities like the Kardashians, Lindsey Lohan, and Donald Trump with the aforementioned medical issues and Congress.

The PPP poll also has a high number of responders who answered “not sure” for many questions.

There were three topics that people were very sure about—their feelings about Congress, Brussel sprouts and colonoscopies. At least 90 percent of those polled had strong feelings on the three subjects.

In compassion, a Pew Research Poll released on Monday took a broader approach that could lead to some insights and make a difference in the current fiscal cliff debate in Washington.

“Relatively few Americans expect that the tax legislation that resulted from those talks will help people like themselves, the budget deficit, or the national economy. Just three-in-ten Americans say the tax measure will mostly help people like them; 52% say it will mostly hurt. And even when it comes to the budget deficit, 44% say the deal will mostly hurt, while 33% say it will mostly help,” Pew said in a statement.

And Gallup’s most recent poll talks about the ill feelings among Americans for the broader political scene in Washington, including the relationship between Congress and President Barack Obama.

“More than three-quarters of Americans (77%) say the way politics works in Washington these days is causing serious harm to the United States, providing still another indicator of the low esteem in which Americans hold their elected officials and the way the federal government works,” says Gallup.

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